Trust for Public Land Statement on Biden Administration’s Action Plan for Building Better School Infrastructure

April 4, 2022
WASHINGTON

Diane Regas, President and CEO of Trust for Public Land (TPL), released the following statement in response to Vice President Harris’ announcement today on bolstering clean school infrastructure and transportation to support student learning and health:  

“The health and education of our children is essential to creating a prosperous and just society. I applaud the work of Vice President Harris and the Biden Administration on today’s significant steps to support learning and health by boosting climate resiliency and energy efficiency in our nation’s schools. The priorities are game-changers, and they build upon the innovative transformations beginning in some of the 2 million acres of land on which America’s public primary and secondary schools sit.   

We should now move beyond the four walls of the school to improve the resiliency and quality of the schoolyards where our children spend their days.   

Far too many of America’s schoolchildren attend schools that are located on a sea of asphalt, perhaps with a few cracks sprouting weeds. Bare schoolyards bake under the hot sun. They flood during downpours. Some have little to no equipment, and rarely inspire active, creative play. Lacking gardens and outdoor classroom space, they fail to provide teachers with a place to engage students outdoors in the fresh air. 

Students in low-income, racially diverse, urban neighborhoods suffer the worst inequities when it comes to the quality of their open space, including schoolyards. Of the 100 largest U.S. cities, neighborhoods where residents predominantly identify as people of color have access to an average of 44 percent less park acreage than predominantly white neighborhoods. 

Our research also reveals that about a third of the nation’s 50 million public school students attend school in a heat island, which can be anywhere from 1.25 degrees to 20 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the surrounding town or city. This analysis showed significant differences in household income between some of the hottest and coolest parts of town. In areas with the most extreme heat, household income averages were about $30,000 lower than the areas with cooler temperatures.  Temperature readings from asphalt schoolyards can be up to 120 degrees in the hot sun, which radiate back to the school. 

Teachers and school administrators report that attendance, behavior, and test scores improve following schoolyard renovations. Renovated schoolyards also have climate superpowers. Landscaped gardens and porous surfaces absorb stormwater, prevent floods, and trees cool down play spaces.  

We’ve seen these types of investments work wonders for America’s students. Trust for Public Land’s (TPL) community schoolyards initiative has enabled the renovation of nearly 300 schoolyards nationwide. Swapping out blacktop for trees, gardens, and up-to-date play equipment delivers an abundance of benefits to students, from emotional to academic. I’m encouraged that the Biden Administration is leading on climate resiliency in our nation’s schools, and look forward to partnering with the Administration and communities across the country to connect students to quality outdoor spaces to support their learning and health.”  

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About Trust for Public Land  

Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit that works to connect everyone to the benefits and joys of the outdoors. As a leader in equitable access to the outdoors, TPL works with communities to create parks and protect public land where they are needed most. Since 1972, TPL has protected more than 3 million acres of public land, created more than 5,000 parks, trails, schoolyards, and iconic outdoor places, raised $84 billion in public funding for parks and public lands, and connected more than 9 million people to the outdoors. To learn more, visit tpl.org